Contrary to popular belief, catnip isn’t really a drug – it’s actually a herb that belongs to the mint family.

When the leaves are broken or crushed, they release a certain chemical called Nepetalactone. This stimulates the five senses (touch, sight, smell, sound, and taste) of felines, which is why cats respond to it like they’re crazy. That said, not all felines are affected by catnip. While most go absolutely gaga, a handful of them walk away can’t be bothered.

When cats smell catnip, they will often paw at, rub against, roll-over, and/or lick it. Some even chew it! Felines that react strongly to catnip may also get frisky, meow, growl, purr, or drool.

Other than keeping Puss in a perpetually good mood, Nepetalactone has been found to also drive mosquitoes, flies, cockroaches, and even termites away!

Research has shown that this herb, when still intact as a plant, is 10 times more effective than DEET (the ingredient found in most insect repellents). Unfortunately for us, Nepetalactone loses its repellent qualities when it comes in contact with the skin, so we can’t make use of this herb to save us from those mozzies. Boo!

*This article was updated on 11 Sept 2020. It first appeared in on 30 Aug 2016.